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codenameage1970

Mobile Smart Phones in Modern RPG

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Hi. How do you deal with mobile smart phones in modern RPGs? I played my first modern RPG for the first time in many many years (over 10 years since I played a modern RPG) and the one immediate problem which eventuated was to do with mobile smart phones. The players had mobile smart phones eg i-phones, and they just used it as a skill substitute. For example, one of the skills is Locale (knowing about a particular area) and the players just said we'll look it up on our iphone. They needed to navigate to a location - so they just said we'll use iphone Maps/GPS. Basically, their smart phones became a "skill substitute". At one point they needed a flashlight..... just use their iphone flashlight function. It was quite annoying actually.... mainly because the iphone made some of the actual character skills redundant. I was thinking of ruling that you still need the skill, but the iphone gives a bonus, but do you really need the skill - or even any roll when an iphone search is involved? Help....

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My suggestions are as follows: 1) Require a basic skill in whatever you use to represent computer use, but don't consistently require rolls. 2) Require a Research or Search roll to find stuff. Search engines are great, but you still need to know how to query, or what to query for. This can be very time consuming. 3) Always add a time element to the game. If you know a skill or how to do something you should get things done quicker, and usually without any glitches. 4) Misdirection. You know that Google, and Apple Maps are not 100% accurate. 5) A website is only as good as its last update. That place they are looking for moved, someone with the skill would likely know that, the player with the phone only knows what he is being told. 6) Environmental incidences, your phone gets wet bye, bye phone. You smash it, in a fall, it gets stolen, you lose it, the battery dies, etc. Shit happens, watch the frequency and you should not have a problem with it. 7) Have the damn thing ring at the wrong time, such as when someone is stealthing around. 8) Ambush them, because walking around with an iphone in hand trying to navigate is a sure fire way to get a cap in your ass. Conversely the guy with Navigation does a quick map study and proceeds only occasionally referring back to the map. It is essentially a compact map so no big deal. 9) No bonuses, it is a reference tool, it either makes things possible for you to accomplish, or not. You either get the information you need or not, it makes things easier or not.

 

Anecdote: My father in law could not find a very specific electronic part online. I found it in fifteen minutes. He was ready to give up, I knew it was likely to exist and that simply the correct search criteria needed to be there. It used up more time, but it allowed me to eventually get the job done. He would likely never have found it becuase he lacked the frame of reference of naming conventions, or even really where to look. It made the job possible, but would provide no aid if I did not know what I was doing.

 

Hope that helps.

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You have a good idea with the "phone giving a bonus" to the skill. I know people who are not good at finding anything online, including map coordinates.

 

Other things to consider for "smart phones in games" are:

 

Battery life while adventuring. Keep using that flashlight and such and suddenly the smart phone is dead and your on the road.

 

Cell coverage. Living in a more spacious, less-developed area, there are still places you can go in the state of Montana (and Alaska) where they simply isn't ANY cell coverage. So while an app might still work, if it requires ANY connection with the internet, it's not going to work correctly. Unless you have satellite connection, which I'm told uses up battery life VERY rapidly, an adventuring group might find themselves in areas with no cell coverage. So unless the PCs stay in urbanized areas all of the time, you can certainly use this as a complication.

 

Finally, failure of electronic devices. Ever go into a tunnel with a cell phone? (I'm not talking a tunnel you drive through, I'm talking about a real tunnel dug into a mountain-side) They simply DO NOT WORK in some tunnels due to interference from metals and minerals in the rock surrounding them. Likewise what could happen if you go around high electricity or massive static discharge areas, such as power substations or near high voltage power lines.

 

Oh, and one other....the fragility of the phone. You could let them know that since smart phones are not an easy to handle shape, ANY damage the PC takes results in the phone being dropped. Each time it is dropped, you roll 2D. Roll a 2 while in a typical modern home, and the phone ceases to work. Outside, it increases to a 2-3 on 2D before it stops working. On hard surfaces, such as in a warehouse or on the street, 2-4 on 2D. And if it gets WET....ha!

 

If the players say stuff like "it's waterproof" and "it has an impact cover" on it, ask them how they afforded it. Likewise, ding them for a monthly data plan for the phone. They want to bring reality into the game with the use of smart phones, bring reality in with the expense of having one and the cost of fixing or replacing one every so often due to a life of adventuring.

If the PC hasn't collected enough money for that smart phone every month, then they lose its benefit.

 

Hope this gives you some ideas.

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Fantastic. Thanks for the brilliant ideas. I have used your suggestions to create some Mobile Smartphone Rules (using Into the Shadows rules, skills and information table)

 

1) To Operate eg use an Application (minimum Time required: 1 round+) = COMMUNICATION TECH (Technical) at EASY = +1D to equivalent Skill eg GPS provides +1D to NAVIGATION (Technical); Flashlight +1D to FIND in Dark environs

 

2) To Search for Information (minimum Time required: 1 minute+) = RESEARCH (Canny) +1D, see table below for results

 

INFORMATION DIFFICULTIES

Amount of Information DIFFICULTY

Basic or common information; unconfirmed rumours Easy

Theories; Generalities Moderate

Complex concepts; moderately detailed information Difficult

Professional level; extensive (though not complete) information Very Difficult

Cutting edge topics; extensive information, including peripheral details and extrapolations Heroic

 

3) Battery Life: using other than for short calls (eg Searches and Apps) makes the unit more susceptible to running out of battery, see Complications

 

4) Coverage: outside of urbanised areas (or underground; mountainous areas), coverage weakens and draws more battery strength

 

5) Multiple Attempts: Users can make multiple attempts to ‘Operate/Use an App’ or ‘Search’, noting Time required, and Complications

 

6) Misdirection: information obtained from the internet eg Google, and Maps are not always 100% accurate; a website is only as good as its last update

 

7) Complications (Wild Die): Mobiles are affected by environmental incidences eg it gets wet, you smash it, broken in a fall, it gets stolen, you lose it, the battery dies, etc.

 

8) Assumptions: All handsets are assumed to be:

• set on Vibrate mode, unless otherwise specified

• being used with 2 hands for Apps or Searches, or Difficulty +5

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If it is something they could look up in real life at the table right then get them to do it in real time. If they are trying to look up open heart surgery or basically anything complicated (then trying to call it their I win button) it should quickly become clear even to the most anal of players that the smart phone just like in real life is not your instant access second brain :-)

 

For legit things like the flash light app, simple info searches, maps etc. most of the time it is just something you as the GM will have to deal with in a modern RPG setting. In Star Wars now that our phones in real life basically pass as com link, data pad and recording rod in one I have advanced them with the times. If some one wants they can buy an all in one com/datapad/recording rod, they have to pay extra and declare they have bought one but I will allow it.

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